Birth of the Ampersand et al.

As I invite you to follow me into one of the larger stone buildings, please do not distract those hard at work at the sloping wooden desks.
Come with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic

This is the Scriptorium, the Room of Writing.

I am launching an appeal for the preservation of the “.”
Yes, the much maligned, abused, and misunderstood Full Stop or Period. Restore our Mr., our etc., the I.R.A. Shun the abusive use of USA, UK, EU, and their likes! Omitting the humble <.> is a sign of ignorance, an absence of respect, and a further decline into willful barbarity.
Why do I write with tears of desperation misting my smart phone. Why do they still use a special key for the simple, unpretentious <.>! Quite simply because the dumbing downers have misunderstood the advice that “Brevity is the Soul of Wit”.
I beg you, Friends, Romantics, and Fellow Countrymen, lend me your ears, just for a mo. And in that short phrase at the end of the previous sentence lies a clue!
Lay aside you concerns, your petty irritations, turn off the radio or television, and open your mind and imagination to the greatest gift that our Irish ancestors gave and gave freely to Europe and to the world at large.
Come with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic off the Western coast of a mysterious island marked on the maps of Roman and Egyptian seafarers as Hibernia, the Island of Saints and Scholars, and departure point of leather boats and currachs for Tír na n-Óg, the Land of the Ever Young.
As I invite you to follow me into one of the larger stone buildings, please do not distract those hard at work at the sloping wooden desks. This is the Scriptorium, the Room of Writing. Here you see the Scribes at work. They have prepared their pots of ink from natural materials. Some of those raw materials have been delivered by traders who traded their way up the original Great Atlantic Coastal Way extending from the Mediterranean in the South to the Hebridean Islands north of Scotland. That was a time when Europe was thickly forested and wild animals marauded in the wilderness between isolated communities.
Some Scribes are sharpening the points of their goose feather quills. On the sloping work surface of his desk another Scribe has fixed the prepared calf hide upon which he will apply the ink with the quill. But first he must mark out the space which will be his page. Nowadays, of course, with your P.C., or your iPad, or your smart phone, this is done automatically for you. Left or right justified? Italics? Bold? Which font, what colours? Just set your requirements by tapping the relevant icons and off you go. Not so then! Not so even when I was starting out as a student!
In 1959, I had just completed my first year as an engineering student at University College Cork. I had spent part of that year learning the basic skills of engineering drawing which involved blocking out the different sections of the drawing including penciling in the text boxes where I would insert the explanatory text. My father, with intriguing foresight or perhaps just wishing to pass on to me his skill in the calligraphy required when preparing important legal documents such as leases, contracts, and wills, introduced me to the subject.
He sat me down at my own Dickensian desk in his office in Cobh, Co. Cork, complete with the tools of the trade, a sheet of waxed paper, an array of nibs, a wooden pen-holder, a razor blade, and a little bottle of black Indian Ink. Any error or blob of ink had to be dried and the stain that was left carefully and delicately scraped off. Then the roughened surface was rubbed with a chamois leather cloth to warm the underlying waxed surface to restore the original smooth, glossy surface of the vellum. It took a whole day of writing to reach the standard required before I proved that I could be trusted with the actual job in hand. It was worth it.
Years later when I became interested in studying ancient manuscripts and translating from Latin and Irish to English I found that early experience invaluable when deciphering the manuscripts.When I, like the ancient Scribes, embarked on writing my manuscript I had to plan how many words and letters I would fit into each line. The spacing had to be uniform on my documents. The Scribes had a different problem that in some ways made their job easier. They didn’t put spaces between words! They just wrote uninterruptedly from the first word to the last word of the document! Yes, the whole page. I think that the modern equivalent is the help files supplied with software programs where you need to know the answer to your question before you can understand the turgid prose of the author who is supposed be helping you find that answer. Those manuscripts were hard to read!
Now the early Irish Scribes were way ahead of today’s help file compilers. They listened to the feedback they received from the sponsors who commissioned the manuscripts as the following (imaginary!) dialogue demonstrates:
King/Lord/Abbot commissioning the manuscript: “The formation of the letters is very pretty and I really like the animal and bird decorations but I feel like a right gargoyle dick-head when my guests and my friends don’t dig it if I run out of breath halfway through the story. I need something better if you are to continue receiving my bags of gold.”
Chief Scribe: “I hear what you’re saying, King/Lord/Abbot Boss. Leave it to me.”
So the C.S. called the team together for a brain-storming session. He used motivational techniques common at the time to encCome with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic cosmic-yin-yang-symbolourage the team. Phrases like “that’s your bonus package for Paradise terminated if …”, “No more trips to Tír na n-Óg for you, Brother …”
And it worked. A sequence of lateral, vertical, and horizontal thinking exercises and the team came up with some of Monastic Ireland’s greatest contributions to world literacy and literature. Firstly they invented the FUCome with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic cosmic-yin-yang-symbolLL STOP to indicate the point at which one part of the message ended and a new part started thus providing a discrete cue for drawing breath. And thus was the SENTENCE born. Shortly after that some bright spark added the gloss of decorating the first letter so that Kings/Lords/Abbots would remember where they stopped if they had lifted their eyes to check quickly which of their so called friends and guests had fallen asleep or slipped out for a quick chat with one of the temping, and often tempting, serving wenches. [Thanks, Google predictive for that opportunist pun!👍].
Thus did our Irish ancestors invent and introduce CAPITALS. To put this in context, if Monsanto, or Nestlé, were involved in such an invention today, they would demand copyright control and charge a hefty fee for every time we used them. Instead those brilliant and entrepreneurial monks took vows of poverty and anticipated the GNU Commons License. Well done, lads!
Nevertheless, as we usually find in Life, solving one problem exposes another. In those days they didn’t have access to consultants who would, as part of their investigations, show conclusively that there really was no problem there at all that a little re-organisation of resources couldn’t eliminate and that a spin-doctor could prove was in fact an “opportunity” and not a “threat”. So they had to find a solution to this new problem.
No matter how hard they tried to plan ahead it was virtually impossible to finish a line of text at exactly the same point as the previous line. And Kings/Lords/Abbots did so love their fully justified text with its military precision of left and right edges being parallel. They must truly have been idealists because the natural world in which they lived was certainly lacking in straight edges! But thus was conceived and brought into existence the concept of the “abbreviation”, the crowning achievement of our Irish Scribes!
When you come near the right edge of your text block and you have to fit, for example, the word “September” and there is space only for four or five letters, then you feel like screaming and filling in “shit” just to release your frustration. But no, Brother Scribe taps his nose with his right forefinger, and inserts “Sept.” and thereby saves the day and the vellum. This <.> is now no mere prompt for an indrawn breath. It is an indicator that the preceding letters are a generally understood and accepted ABBREVIATION. That was really putting it up to the educated elite to prove they were educated and knew the codes.
These abbreviations proliferated giving us a donkey-load of useful ways, not only of fitting a big word into a small space, but also of fitting more text into the same space. This is basically the foundation also of Shorthand, a defunct skill now that we have voice recorders. With the increasing use of Latin as a lingua franca for the educated elites across Europe, our Scribes gleefully used abbreviations that had to be understood to be deciphered in a text. A delicate touch of monastic one-up-manship! Not unlike the way that today we use slang and jargon to parade our expertise or professional connections. Thus, the Latin glosses and their abbreviations, such as “et cetera” meaning “and others”, abbreviated to “etc.” with the <.> signifying that it is an abbreviation. The ampersand symbol “&” is an imaginative and artistic squiggle based on the letters ‘e’ and ‘t’ of the Latin “et” meaning ‘and’. Even today legal eagles become scrotally damp with excitement at opportunities to parade phrases they no longer understand.
This brings me to the abbreviations I listed at the beginning of this homage to ancestors. The <.> used in each of the, U.S.A., E.U., etc. is an indication of an abbreviation deriving ultimately from the practices of our early Irish Scribes. They, writing in Old Irish, then in Early Irish, and Latin, preserved not only Irish oral tradition but, together with Latin and Greek scholars aided and abetted by Islamic Scholars in the Middle East, preserved the first written literature and mythologies and hitherto oral traditions of Europe, a treasure-trove of European culture and identity that might have been lost forever during the Dark Ages.I have it on the reliable evidence of a previous Irish President, that at that time the adventurous Colmcille opened discussions with European tribes about rolling out the concept of Europe. Even though Hibernia was at the edges of the then known world, our hearts were at the centre of the Europe to be.
I wonder is it a coincidence, or perhaps even a synchronicity, that the countries and cultures listed above, Latins, Greeks, Irish, Islam, the Middle East, are the ones suffering most today under the lash of neo-liberal capitalist exploitation? Just a thought.
I believe in, and I am passionately committed to, that noble heritage from my Irish and European ancestors. I would not like to see that heritage destroyed because of a lack of understanding or a barbaric obsession with the destruction of what we do not understand. Perhaps it’s time for another diplomatic and cultural assault on the Goths and Visigoths of Europe.
Troglodytes of the World Unite before they beat out our Brains.

And that is how a prince can pass through the guts of a beggar.

I admire you, #Lynn_Ruane, and the work you do. More, nay, most importantly you are the only Irish politician that I have heard using the words “his/her soul”, in such a meaningful context. When someone takes their own life there is shock and bewilderment, why did they do it. The “father of Sociology” described suicide as the “greatest crime against society.” I have seen that phrase parsed and analysed as meaning that the one who took their own life had, in some way, sinned against society because society, their community, perhaps even their family hadn’t helped them. I am beginning to see and unravel another meaning there.

I have my own spiritual beliefs but having come from a Catholic background in Ireland, and examined other religious systems, I practise no religion that has created by men, women, or their so-called “God”. Let me explain, because in the situation up to now, suicide  has been interpreted as “murder without a reason or an explanation” as if the individual had set out to hurt society. I see suicide as the end of a chain of suffering inflicted on the individual by society, including other less final events, or states of mind, earlier on in their life. But we are not introduced to examining these “little things” because either we don’t know how to respond, or we don’t understand, or perhaps even, if we did notice anything, we were blind or too fearful to look at it because we don’t know how to respond effectively. I now believe that suicide should be described as “the greatest crime against the Spirit committed by society”

Rodin - The Thinker

Let me explain what I mean.

People, in general, and very specifically here in Ireland, treat their “Body-Mind-Spirit” triad combination in that descendng order of importance to them. The Body, however, is equivalent to a space suit, but gets the most attention, It is useful for carrying the Brain, i.e, our built-in human computer module, around with us, as it senses and interprets our reality. The Mind is like the software package that comes with the computer. Like the software package that comes with your manufactured computer, it provides a structure and a set of instructions for the Brain to do its computing. I have read recently that the “software for the mind” is loaded from the DNA that we inherit through our parents from our ancesters, our culture, and add to by our experience of life. That is perhaps why C.J. Jung, the psychotherapist, wrote that every child born arrives with a complete history of the evolution of the world in its psyche  The Mind manages the Brain just as the Operating System manages the computer.

I believe, however, and my apologies if anyone disagrees with me and feels hurt by what I write, that “Soul” is our “energy source” that powers our life with only one single charge. Nothing new in that! Most people describe death as the Soul leaving the Body. But after that scientific statement, things get kind of confused. Atheists seem to have missed the point, and agnostics haven’t bothered to get that far yet, but both claim to believe that the Cosmos is just some kind of accident or nasty joke that happened and that it is going nowhere and has no intrinsic meaning for us. They imply that we are wasting out time trying to unravel the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Even stranger when you thing that many prominent atheists announce that they are scientists.  Their advice is “just get on with it.”

When we, die the Body dies. What is generally described as the “Soul” is, in modern terms, like a holograph of the entire Cosmic Spirit/ Energy/ God (not as in OMG), that is, a realistic picture composed of minute versions of the large picture (just like the holograph on your bank card or credit card which gives the illusion that you are looking at the picture in three dimensions, looking at the sides, the top, the bottom as if it were an actual object in front of you). Now that image enables and forces me to look at every individual, good, bad, or indifferent, as the full image of the Unnameable, the Unimaginable One that powers the Universe. It helps me to explore and understand a truth that may exist in the phrase “children of God” but gives it a whole new meaning for me. That is why I believe that the act of suicide is a despairing cry of belief that Life could be so much better, if society stopped believing in lies, put the triad in a different order, writing “Soul, Mind, Body” instead of “Body, Mind, Soul”. We can’t see Spirit or Soul or the Mind but we can examine and know the body. The Body is composed of star dust, created by the the nuclear explosions in dying stars. As a result of that death of a star, dust comprising the atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and all the other chemicals we find in our natural world, have over billions of years floated through space, driven by solar winds, carried on comets and asteroids, eventually reaching Earth. You see, the Bible and other holy books, tales passed down from mythological time, carry a simple message, such as the Christian one that God picked a handful of that star dust, breathed on it and created human beings. That is a very simplified story but essentially scientific and reasonable.

That is also why I stated earlier that we must begin to re-evaluate the message that wasn’t written by the person who ended the life of their own Body but expressed that message nonetheless. Just because it wasn’t written down as a note, doesn’t mean there was no message in their action. To understand that message we must first understand the process of the life of the Body. It has come from another human body, which has fed and nourished itself on plants and animals containing feed that had been absorbed from the earth composted plants containing that same star dust mentioned above. When our human body dies, it also is composted and broken down again into star dust to join the star dust of every other living creature throughout the planet which has died and decomposed and became ready to be recycled. And if there is no doubt but that the bodies of all living things having died, decomposed with their handful of star dusk returning to the composting earth, then it is inevitable that what I refered to earlier as my space suit is actually made from recycled material from previous living beings, then there is no reason to doubt that the material of our body has been recycled and is the home of the hologram of the Cosmic Spirit. As the Gravedigger in Hamlet remarked “and that is how a prince can pass through the guts of a beggar.” I believe that we must turn our attention to Spirit and Mind, and cease from putting Body ahead of Spirit and Mind. I think that we must do this if we are ever to understand why someone dear to us has apparently taken their own life without a reason. We should be examining our Selves and our society to find out why  collectively we have created a society that stalks those are threatened by what they have seen when they looked into the heart of Darkness.

Peace and blessings be with all who grieve.

Are you one of the 70 million?

Well, if you are one of those lucky ones, how much do you know about the land of your ancestors?

The Irish seem to pop up in the most unlikely places. It has been estimated that there are approximately 70 million people worldwide of Irish extraction. Because Ireland is a trading nation but a small country, this has led to periods of emigration in search of work whenever the global economy took a downturn. Let’s not worry too much about the precise figures but I know from my own experience working abroad that there are many people around the world who feel a kinship with Ireland because they believe they have at least one ancestor from the Emerald Isle.

dreamstime_m_58494533Well, if you are one of those lucky ones, how much do you know about the land of your ancestors? We all inherit traits from our ancestors and if you have Irish ancestors can you recognise anything particularly “Irish” in your make-up? Well, to do that youwill need to learn more about Ireland and its people. And I am not limiting that to those people who now, today, live in Ireland. I am thinking back over the long history of the country. That is why I am building my web site slowly but with the specific purpose of presenting information from the old manuscripts, dating back over 1,000 years.

It has been said that history is written by the conquerors after a war, but mythology is the “people’s” history. Ireland is lucky in that it has a very rich heritage of these stories, originally part of our oral tradition, where stories about the heroic past were told around camp fires with the purpose of emphasising and imparting knowledge down the generations about what it meant to be Irish, how our ancestors saw their lives, the principles by which they organised their society. Mythology is a record of what is important in the spirit of the people, their beliefs, their values, their aspirations.

Ireland was the third country in the region that we now call “Europe”, to develop a written story of their country, the other two being the Romans and the Greeks. Those three countries preserved the old oral tradition in the written records of the manuscripts. From them we learn about the Heroic Age of Ireland, of Cúchulainn and the Red Branch Warriors, of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna, and of the various tribal leaders who have been recorded in those ancient tales. But those manuscripts were written in Old Irish and in Latin. Many of the manuscripts have been translated into English and other modern European languages but they have been the preserve of scholars mostly and it has not been easy for ordinary folk to access accurate information or even read those tales.

That is why I am embarking on developing a web site with a focus on presenting those tales in an easily accessible medium, with commentaries to explain the background to each. Even more importantly, I want to show how nearly 2,000 years ago, on a small island which was then deemed to be at the edge of the known world, had developed a sophisticated society, with a unique legal system, and its own way of resolving social and political issues that still have relevance today. One example of that is the story of “The Law of the Innocents”.

In 691 A.D. the Abbot of the Monastery at Iona, organised a Synod in Birr, Co. Offaly to which tribal and other leaders from the region now described as Ireland and the United Kingdom were invited. Remember that in those days these two islands did not have a system of national and regional governments as we have today but were organised on the basis of tribes and clans. These tribes were regularly at war with one another over a variety of issues. Nevertheless over a thousand representatives attended the Synod as is recorded on manuscripts of the time. They passed a law outlawing violence against women. Those attending the Synod contributed to a fund to enforce that Law because there was no central authority to do so. This was done over 1,000 years before the “Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen” was passed by France’s National Constituent Assembly in August 1789, or before Thomas Paine published his “Rights of Man” in which he explored the idea that government based on true justice should support not only mankind’s natural rights (life, liberty, free speech, freedom of conscience) but also its civil rights (relating to security and protection).

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Standing stones

Other stories from the ancient manuscripts describe how the Irish people organised their society, how they coped with spiritual issues as well as those temporal ones. For instance, in the time of the Druids, we read that there were  comprehensive rules governing society. The Druid was similar to the Shaman in other indigenous cultures. They had the power to step between tribal armies on the point of war and impose a cessation of hostilities while they adjudicated on the merits of each side. Even before the introduction of paper in Europe, it appears that the Druids had memory sticks long before the computer industry stumbled on the idea. Yes, they used memory sticks as an aide memoire for the oral tradition of remembering and recalling the ancestral stories! I am at present preparing that story with details about how you may use their technique with investing in computer peripherals!

For those reasons above, I am keen to investigate how relevant the learning from those ancient times is for us today. The web site is aimed at the general reader and will provide resources in response to requests. I hope that you will find information there to whet your appetite enough to learn more about your Irish ancestry, and even if you have no Irish ancestry, I am sure that you will find something there to interest you.

Poverty in life and poverty of spirit

I find that this article (The Upsetting Reality Of Modern Day Poverty.uploaded in an earlier Facebook  piece)) gives a clear , even bleak, introduction to what poverty means to many people. It set me thinking about poverty in Ireland and about the other problems we face and prompted me to push my ideas a bit further and try to clarify them.

I am speaking here of a poverty of thinking as well as a poverty of circumstances. I wish that those who pontificate about their respect for electoral mandates and their dedication to working for the people who elected them, will read this and then recalibrate the urgency required in forming a new government. You asked for a mandate to govern and implement your policies. No party has reached the line to implement their mandate so it is doubtful that your mandate now extends that far because a coalition, an inter-party, a partnership, or any other arrangement will of necessity limit your mandate. Perhaps it would be wise to temporarily interpret your mandate from your share of the electorate as instructing you to negotiate a part for yourselves and them in whatever arrangement is eventually adopted. Any expectations greater than that is pushing it and would appear somewhat arrogant or chancing your arm.

Don’t keep telling us that “the numbers” dictate that it has to be EITHER a Fine Gael OR a Fianna Fáil minority government supported by a few tame independents whom the winner hopes that they can buy off. That is wishful thinking. The “numbers” you speak of are just like squiggles and blobs on a page, like a Rorschach test, and of themselves they have little or no meaning, other than that the electorate is as confused as you are. We are all in new territory. And that requires working with a new map. Any psychologist using the Rorschach (or Inkblot) Test will tell you that a candidate, asked to describe what they see in the random shape of blobs in the picture, will project the contents of their unconscious mind onto the chaos they see and organise it into a picture that they recognise and feel comfortable with based upon the information in their unconscious mind (See note #1 below). Like seeing meaningful shapes in the random pattern of clouds in the sky or of tea leaves on a bottom of a cup. Other observers may decipher different shapes but of you are right – from your own viewpoint.

Our devoted public representatives, suckled for generations on the spiteful milk of unkindness curdled by begrudgery, fraternal strife, clientalism, and political inbreeding, and at the same time remembering with satisfaction the successes that were gained on different occasions in the past, are now looking hopefully into the chaos of the new parliamentary galaxy of stars, and are scanning hopefully the fortunes and recipes of yesterday. They are seeing only the patterns that worked for them in the past and that once helped them to hold on to power and achieve their goals. The Independents, the Alliances, and the embrionic Parties in today’s Dáil are behaving no differently.

four-of-cupsHas none of them the vision, the imagination, and the character to seize the moment? Is there no one with the courage to break new ground, to show us a new vision of society? A revolutionary vision that will respond to what the electorate is yearning for, a better Ireland, a fairer and more egalitarian Ireland that will treat all the children of Caitlín Ní Uallacháin, both young and old, equally. An Ireland which, though small and struggling, has the heart, the creativity, and the spirit to do better, even to taking its place among the Nations of the Earth?

We have done it before and we can do it again. Digging deep and remembering the richness that lies at the roots of our history, we know that the people of this island once played a crucial role when, together with the Greeks and Romans, they rescued Europe from the Dark Ages. As was pointed out in a recent documentary on RTÉ 1 which was presented by former President Mary McAleese, that period in our history is more appreciated and remembered by continental Europeans today than it is recognised by Irish people. At various stages over the centuries since then, our country has contributed in many and varied ways to the development of a unique culture and community that has not baulked at taking and holding a world view, and is now ranked as number one for our peace-keeping efforts under the United Nations. We have gained recognition from those who valued what our ancestors both recent and ancient have contributed on the world stage. In the past week, a documentary on RTÉ, described eloquently how the 1916 Rising had provided the inspiration for the people of India and Pakistan to fight for and assert their countries’ independence from the British Empire. A respect shown by the people of India and Pakistan which is considerably more real and appreciated by them than is our awareness of their gratitude.

We are at a strengthpoint now where we need to form a government. We need a period of stability but not the static equilibrium of a ladder leaning against a wall. We need the dynamic stability and balance of a body moving swiftly and adapting with awareness, intelligence, and co-ordination to meet our changing circumstances, like a thoroughbred horse under a skilful jockey, like a skier on an icy downhill run, or perhaps more aptly, like a bare-footed person picking their terrified way over red-hot coals!

To achieve that, both we and our representatives must move out of our respective comfort zones; we must inhabit the visions of our youthfulness and not linger with the consoling dreams of old age. Poverty of vision and lack of courage are not the coinage for the journey we must undertake. And undertake it, we must.



 

References

#1: If you are not familiar with the Rorschach Test, you might like to try a fun version available online at Rorschach (or Inkblot) Test (click here).  I hasten to add that the clinical version is for serious use, but don’t worry about this one. Nevertheless, if you understand how the test operates then you will have a clear understanding of what I mean above. These were my test results:

Test Results:

Congratulations! At a 49% “Sickness Quotient”, you’re almost well-adjusted.

Detailed Diagnosis

  • Interpersonal Insights
    You have trouble being friendly to others, especially people who hate your guts and want to hurt you. You complain about everything regardless of what it is. You wouldn’t be happy even if you were hit by a new car.
  • Job Performance & Attitude
    Your attitude towards work is that you could watch others do it all day long. Although your work can upon occasion be very good, remember that even monkeys can be trained to do what you do. And they don’t call in sick.
  • Personality Insight
    Your personal motto is “If you can’t make them think, make them wonder.” Trust us – you’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.

 

 

 

Into the Wilderness: A Story for our Times.

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Crab Nebula

When societies developed their own Creation myths they went to enormous lengths to perpetuate them and build their lives around then, giving them and their leaders a stable reality rather than question the Myth and thereby undermine their Dreamworld. We in Ireland have been living in a Dreamworld that is largely a sustaining stew of old fashioned capitalist theories, disabling colonial memories, with a tad of jaded Celtic Twilight to spice it up. It is a Story that was fed to us with our mother’s milk. It is difficult to break from that story when one has been reared on it. It is a landscape littered with signs, such as “Here be dragons” and “Thou shalt not” because for so long our ancestors lived in a society where Authority, the right to exercise Power, resided in either London or Rome. It provokes great anxiety in society when the basis for that Dream is challenged. It is on a par with the mythic fear of the ancient Celtic warrior king who, when asked by Alexander the Great, was there nothing that the Celts feared, admitted after a pause, that he sometimes feared that the sky would fall on him. For each of us to question ourselves about our existence and about our way of behaving is a challenge and for most it appears to be too threatening to even imagine. “Better to brave the ills we have, than fly to other that we know not of”.

Many people who are disadvantaged by their role in prevailing Dream of Reality feel a strong need to rebel. They have two main options. The first option is to act out their rebellion while maintaining a role in the Dream World. This satisfies their need for psychic security but enables them to vent their anger. It is a futile approach but has its compensations. In the words of MacBeth:

        “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.”
Many will dismiss this description as a poetic boreen, a literary device, but strangely it is an explanation that is being confirmed by modern science that is telling us that there are such things as parallel realities, that we unknowingly construct our own reality. To update that analysis, merely read the ranting and raving, the aggression, the braggadocio and the mock-heroics of the contributions on social media and imagine “Just hold me back or I will…” preceding the statements.
The alternative option they have is to create a new Story, a new Dreamworld, a new way of looking at our world and at our roles in that alternative story. The creation of that new Story is a collective work, It must start with each of us taking responsibility for our own thoughts as well as our own actions. We must then develop a new Story that describes the kind of story in which we wish to live our lives, how we should relate to one another, how we should organise our society. It will not be developed by shouting invective and obscenities at those who oppose us, by vilifying those who try to offer a thread to the new fabric of our Dreamworld. It will require us to produce a story that integrates all (and I deliberatelyRodin - The Thinker emphasise ALL) our citizens into the one shared world of the story. It will be an act of real revolution. To bring this home, just read again the Story that the leaders of the 1916 Rising spoke about and upon which they based their insurrection. The Proclamaton of 1916 is a good summary. They were often ridiculed by those whose lives were embedded in a different Story. Their Story has been twisted and turned since the Civil War. Over recent years, the central characters and settings in the Story have been changed from “Society”, “Commmunity” and their relationship to the “Citizen”  to “the Economy” and the role of the “Consumer/Customer”. Each story line built a different interpretation of what one should do, what one should think, how one should behave, and fundamentally of Who one is. In recent weeks, candidates in the general election produced manisfestoes, ostensibly promoting their versions of the Story, or of selected parts of it, in which we should live and the roles availbable to us.
The results of the election have, as it were, drawn back a part of the veil that hid the mechanics of the system, the Ghost in the Machine. The electorate is beginning to show signs that they are worried and do not like what they see. The political actors in the lead roles are dashing about, trying to repair the rift in the curtain, and pretending that nothing has really changed. But things are changed, changed utterly, and what is being laid bare is far from beautiful. The threat of the ugliness we see is such that it may terrify some, but hopefully it will give courage to others to ask “if not, why not”. As Rudyard Kipling once wrote:
“I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
Before it is too late, perhaps our political leaders would introduce us to their honest, serving people and share with us their views. What’s the Story, lads? Why do you want to be our leaders? When are you going to let us share in the work of building our counrty? How will we do that together? Where will that lead us? Who am I going to be in the new Story?
220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological
Enlightened voter (Homo selectus)

Do not expect them to answer these questions now because it is clear that they are very busy doing “grown-up things” and we should wait to be told. We don’t need to wait. We have told them what we want. Let us examine, and even more importantly, let the media, acting on our behalf, help us to interpret the answers implied by their posturing,  positioning, and pretence. Would that be too much to ask? Or do the media prefer the perilous security of their roles in the present Story to navigating the wilderness where we might together constuct a New Story for a Risen People? Aye, there’s the Rub!

Back to the Future with Rip van Winkle

We fool ourselves if we think that we can change things on our own by the Flurry Knox antics of plying the Medea-like Mme. Lagarde, with drinks and banter in some late-night haunts in Dublin.

I am not a soothsayer, but I will be surprised if the dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis don’t emerge like the Phoenix from the burnt-out ashes of media toilet paper that has railed against them and what they stand for.

I suppose with the day that’s in it, Greek Referendum and all that, plus all the campaigns and the shouting of obscenities that is going on in the different threads of ersatz debate online, in pubs, around kitchen tables, over fences, alone in bedrooms, we all need to check our sanity and our wallets. I have been taking stock and I must say that the scene depresses me. It is clear that a general election is going to be sprung on us pretty soon, and a lot of the issues that are raised are going around and around in ever decreasing circles like the proverbial Wogga Wogga bird, where they have disappeared up its own dietary outlet, reappeared again, disputed and inconclusive, to fuel more abusive language and further displays of anger, but again without progress. So, to sharpen the appetite, I decided to push the boat out a bit further and challenge the thinking before the Sunday lunch hits the linen table cloth.

We will see later this evening the results of the Greek Referendum. I am not a soothsayer, but I will be surprised if the dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis don’t emerge like the Phoenix from the burnt-out ashes of media toilet paper that has railed against them and what they stand for. Even if they lose, the result will be the same anyway. Things will get tougher in Greece and there will be a knock-on effect on Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and probably in Britain at a later stage, when the unholy Trinity, hidden in the romantic image of the Russian Troika, (except that Dr. Zhivago has been replaced by Wolfgang Schaűble played by a Peter Sellers look-alike in a role like that of the mad German scientist) succeed in the beating down of better men and women.

We fool ourselves if we think that we can change things on our own by the Flurry Knox antics of plying the Medea-like Mme. Lagarde, with drinks and banter in some late-night haunts in Dublin. If the rapidly approaching snap General Election is to yield a change in Government, as the anger sweeping most of the country likes to suggest, then it is time for our political infants to perform or arise from their potties. I find it neither heart-warming nor encouraging that Irish parties claiming to represent left-wing ideologies are queuing for trips around the neo-mythology of Greek politics in the hopes that some of the glitter on the wings of Icarus might rub off and enhance their image. But the heroes on the Left in Greece are in the image of Theseus rather than the eejit who thought he could fly to the Sun by night and avoid the heat by day – anyway, I think that’s the way an Irish myth would have rationalised his endeavours! The dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis are following a well-conceived and carefully mapped visit to the chthonic Global Minotaur hidden in the labyrinthine caves of the EU/ECB/IMF. Unfortunately the image of our political Jasons will be judged by the policies they produce for the election and their share of the fleece of the electorate will be measured accordingly.

Accordingly, in the interests of stimulating thinking, I would like to throw some fresh bread on stagnant waters (officially supplied by a new State water quango with well-concealed Bonga Bongas arranged by a nearly=jailed former Italian showbiz personality.

Let’s think positively about this.

Enlightened voter (Homo selectus)
Enlightened voter
(Homo selectus)

DAFT DRAFT

First of all, for the voters, I would suggest the following:

  1. Elect the people you can trust, not those who promise to cheat the system to get you things to which you are not already entitled.
  2. If they offer to make applications on your behalf, for grants, medical cards, or anything like that, just ask them to explain the process to you so that you can do it for yourself. It will be a valuable lesson in citizens’ rights for you.
    • N.B. This work could be done in consultation with existing Citizens’ Rights offices and may require access to additional resources described below in item #6.A
  3. If you are constrained by having young children to mind which would restrict your spontaneity in getting information, attending community meetings (see #4.A below) or even voting, just ask them would they supply a registered baby sitter to mind the kids for you while you go on a citizen’s errand. Note that this would be infinitely more meaningful and useful than a Job-Retch programme. If by any freak of chance, they agree, be sure to bring your partner with you and get full value out of the night off.
  4. Each household should sit down now and draw up a list of their “red wine line” items in preparation for the ritual “You won’t forget us now, (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) when you’re voting, will ye” visits of canvassers.
    1. If households were to begin this activity now, then they could take it to a second level and have meetings of household representatives to share these lists and strengthen the bonds in the community. It would be certainly better for your peace of mind, than watching “Big Brother’s House” on T.V.
  5. Depending upon the list you draw up in #4, then you may feel you should ask for training programmes (see items #5.A, #5.B, #5.C, below) to be provided free with any necessary software and hardware required. (They do it for foreign companies setting up in Ireland, so why not for you). In this regard you might consider some of the following random suggestions. When you have read them, I am sure further ideas will come to mind. If not, then I have probably lost you already, so you can just go and
    1. A simple computer terminal for each home so that you can be polled immediately for your preference when the Government, acting on your behalf, needs to confirm their mandate, for example, to guarantee a bank or other financial institution on your behalf, and with your money, or to alert a community when Her Majesty or a member of her family is being brought on a tour of reconciliation-relation binges guilt-trips study tours, or advance notice of any unexpected intrusion upon your rights as a citizen by a government official acting on a tip-off;
    2. A local community centre or other suitable building that can also be used for community support activities. A part-time administrator and secretarial assistant will be needed. These roles could offer good work experience for local people in real work situations.
    3. A timetable for each group of local Senators and T.D.s, to attend monthly meetings with the local electorate to brief the people on what is being done on their behalf, to update them on any decisions that will affect them, or to announce publicly that they are coming out, before you read it in the media. I
    4. t is important that these meetings be organised by the community. The use of small sub-groups with each member taking it in turn to be the facilitator and another the recorder of the subgroup meeting will require training as described in #6.A and also provide valuable skills in community development.
  6. For those housing estates that have experience of dealing, shall I say, diplomatically with Irish Water contractors installing shiny new meters, then there will be some neighbours who can advise on ways in which you might seek to influence or deal with the party canvassers.
  7. Candidates should be asked, on behalf of their Party, to agree and sign the “Red List” as a gesture of sincerity and truth. Be prepared to explain the concepts of sincerity and truth, if needs be.
A dynamic government for a people who are not going anywhere somewhere
A dynamic government for a people who are not going anywhere somewhere

With regard to a programme for Government, then there should be a careful selection of choice items to appeal to the appetite of even the most jaded voter.

  1. A stop on capital movements out of the country must be put into effect immediately upon taking office and before any gougers consultants still left around the place on contract get a whiff of what’s in store, before the following items are leaked.
  2. Prominent or not-so-prominent citizens with Irish passports who hold offshore accounts and maintain a nominal home in Ireland should be requested to justify a renewal of their passports. A special designation of passport could be issued to such people and linked with their bank accounts. Legally, of course. ;-D <ROTGASM> New legislation, of course, will be required under the heading of austerity provisions.
  3. Pass special emergency austerity legislation to slash Dáil and Senate pensions to the national average.
  4. Cut all Dáil and Senate salaries and emoluments to a small multiple of the average industrial wage. They always say that it is a pleasure and an honour to serve their constituencies so be prepared for big smiles of gratitude when they are told of this.
  5. Instead of paying very doubtful travel expenses, issue all public representatives with a special free travel allowance smart-card that is operated on the basis of prepaid top-ups.This should make budgetary controls easier to enforce.
  6. Senators and T.D.s will no longer have need for constituency offices as more interaction will be encouraged under the arrangements indicated in item #6.A following.
  7. Use some of the money saved by these rationalisations (they are never to be referred to as cuts) to accelerate the training of front-line civil servants in customer service and counselling skills, thereby giving them new job enrichment prospects and wipe the smug smiles off the faces of their section heads.
  8. A-teams of the newly assigned civil servants (see remark above re customer service and counselling training) could be assigned locally to work with citizens on Interface Transactions (not to be shortened to I.T. for obvious reasons). These teams would report to an appropriate level in the civil service hierarchy but would also have a role in supporting T.D.s, so that the poor ould divils public representatives are kept “in the loop” and don’t feel completely cut off from their electorate but at the same time are not allowed to interfere in the processes of State. On second thoughts, a little office aide-memoire in bog-thick oak could be provided with the inspirational mantra “YOU are a legislator” (not pronounced “leg-is-later”) in green and gold letters in Roman Uncial on it.
  9. Introduce a national basic wage given to every citizen whose parents were sufficiently irresponsible to born them, including those seeking asylum or here, thereby removing the need for nasty and unpleasant jobs policing the unemployed, or preventing any unintentional effects being experienced by those held in prison-like conditions, alternative accommodation while awaiting deportation, citizenship, etc, etc.
  10. Each local authority should be given the following additional responsibilities and funded from central goverment sources for the following:
  11. A suitably-sized block of flats to be used for young couples who need accommodation but have not yet found a way of purchasing their own homes or getting on a council housing list.
    • It could be designed to allow some units to be used as hostel accommodation for the increased numbers of tourists who will throng to our shores to find out what the fcuk innovative ideas our communities are developing under our new system of participative democracy.
    • This accommodation could also be used for attendees at summer courses on local history, Irish culture, Irish lace-making, franchised sean-nós dancing, and local crafts, held at the premises mentioned above in item #5.B.

Do you get the idea, then? Good.

P.S. Be sure to get enough beers in to celebrate the Referendum results sometime in the small hours of tomorrow. One way or the other. I’m still positive about the results for the Greeks. Even after writing the above.

Simples, Even for meercats!

William Butler Yeats: 150th Anniversary of his birth on 13th June, 2015

Yeats’ writing addressed not only the Irish situation but, drawing upon the mythology of the world, his poetic scalpel dissected global issues.

Yeats in his time also saw Ireland as an accessible model of the world’s situation.

Horseman pass byToday is an important day. All this week we in Ireland have been celebrating, talking and thinking about his work, but today, Saturday 13th June, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. I make no pretensions to be a poet, and when the truth is told, I struggle to feel the unwritten power between the lines of any poet’s work. But for some reason I cannot explain, I have always been drawn to the work of Yeats. I have no difficulty even now, three score years after I sat in my secondary school desk, in remembering the poems of Yeats, and in moments of doubt and trepidation it is strange how easily his words slip quietly into my mind.

Yeat was an Irish poet, a Nobel Laureate and one of the four such Laureates about whom our small country, but great nation, boasts. Yeats’ writing addressed not only the Irish situation but, drawing upon the mythology of the world, his poetic scalpel dissected global issues. In particular, I sense that his comments upon the emerging Irish State in the early 1900s, are still fresh and true, not only about Ireland today, but they also give us a poet’s insight into the universality of the human condition.

Just as Pierre Turquet in the 1960s suggested that the situations then emerging in Ireland and in South Africa offered a laboratory of social change that the world could well benefit from, Yeats in his time also saw Ireland as an accessible model of the world’s situation. After the relentless viciousness of the Anglo-Irish war that followed the Rising in 1916 and eventually gave way to the Treaty of 1922 and ironically ended with the Civil War, Yeats wrote:

“We are closed in, and the key is turned

On our uncertainty; somewhere

A man is killed, or a house burned,

Yet no clear fact to be discerned.”

Surely, if the hearts and spirit of those who, in increasing numbers around the world, are fleeing persecution and manic ideology, were aware of those words of Yeats, they would resonate in sympathy. Yeats not only saw clearly into the heart of such a situation, he also showed some of his own despair with what was happening:

“We had fed the heart on fantasies,

The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;

More substance in our enmities

Than in our love … “

Having immersed myself in Irish politics in my younger days, devouring the works of Karl Marx and James Connolly, I spent most of my working life outside Ireland and had the good fortune to find work in different countries, with different cultures and different histories. Nevertheless, I became increasingly concerned with the story line that I saw emerging, a story line that said:

  • The world is a violent place that is evolving from violence and must live with violence
  • Ruling classes always use violence to enforce their will; those who are oppressed by them must needs overthrow them with violence
  • Sir James G. Frazer described Magic and Religion as a cultural story or a dream-world within which human beings live their lives. Again violence was a central warp thread in the story that he wove.

Yeats painted a picture of what he saw, and truly, we can see the same picture around the world today. A shared story is still ruling people’s lives and our lives are rounded with that dream:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all convictions, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

When I examine what I have learned so far in my life, I see the relevance of what Albert Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I think that Yeats’ despair at what he saw reflects the same thinking. Our only chance of getting out of the spiral dance of violence which is leading us to the destruction of our world, is not to fight our way with violence, but to open our hearts to the silence within, the silence of Spirit, and ultimately to wake from the dream that confines us. We have a chance to write a new story, a story with a happy ending. Then we might turn to those great minds that have led us there and salute them with the words of the Great Man whose birth we celebrate today:

“What they undertook to do

They brought to pass;

All things hang like a drop of dew

Upon a blade of grass.”